Oxfam Says Rohingya Refugee Response Failing Women
Female Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh are facing health issues, do not get access to aid and suffer from a greater risk of abuse as a result of dangerous and unsuitable facilities in large swathes of the refugee camps according to Oxfam. The global aid agency is urging at least an additional 15 per cent of new funding to be set aside for programmes that will better support girls and women. At present there is no separate budget for meeting the needs of females despite the $500 million commitment made by the World Bank towards the emergency response.
World’s largest refugee camp
700,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh over the last year and aid to them is being delivered by the government and agencies. However, the sheer speed at which the world’s largest refugee camp has emerged at has made it virtually impossible for authorities to keep pace with their support. According to Oxfam and its partners, more than a third of women polled said they felt unsafe and did not feel comfortable when going to the toilet, collect water or to use the shower. Many toilet and bathing facilities lack roofs and lockable doors.
Females don’t feel safe
Half the women polled and seventy five percent of female adolescents said they did not have the necessary tools to manage their periods. This not only means sanitary pads or the like but also female only places to wash sanitary cloths to avoid embarrassment. In response many women forgo food and water in order to minimise their use of toilets and this causes abdominal pain and infection. Many end up using unhygienic sanitary cloths and relieve themselves by their tents increasing the risk of the spread of disease. Women also have to deal with the risk of being sexually abused or harassed.
The speed of the unfolding crisis is difficult to keep up with
An Oxfam spokesperson says the sheer speed at which this refugee crisis has unfolded has meant that most if not all of the emergency facilities were installed in a rush without thinking about the needs of women. As a result, females are now paying the price because they do not feel secure and are suffering from health issues. This has to be rectified immediately with substantial amounts of money needing to be devoted to protecting female Rohingya refugees by improving toilets and bathing facilities so they offer privacy an assistance to the vulnerable.
Delivering a more suitable humanitarian response
Oxfam is working with local partners and refugees to deliver a more suitable humanitarian response that supports females. This includes the installation of solar powered lighting along pathways, the distribution of portable solar lamps and establishing women’ groups to discuss women’s issues such as safety. New toilet facilities are being designed in consultation with female refugees that include features such as lockable doors and shelves so that clothing can be kept clean, as well as screens which provide privacy. Oxfam says the government of Bangladesh should be commended for its response and allowing a persecuted minority to seek refuge in Cox’s Bazar. The aid agency says it along with the government and other humanitarian aid agencies are calling on Myanmar to stop the discrimination that is the root cause of this crisis.
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